Live shopping is a $400 billion industry in China. The live shopping market in the US is $20 billion.
Social media has been a petri dish for live video shopping in China. But in the US, most ecommerce purchases still happen on the open web. Although social shopping is starting to pick up in the US, it hasn’t gained much traction yet.
But companies like the ecommerce startup CommentSold are betting that live shopping is finally about to take off.
The real-time engagement brands get with live video shopping drives higher customer retention rates and higher sales, according to Andrew Chen, chief product officer of CommentSold, which has SaaS products that support live video shopping on the web and in apps.
For now, though, live video shopping nationwide is still somewhat of a novelty because it’s new, culturally and technologically.
The walled garden effect
Although CommentSold is starting to look beyond social platforms, the company has its roots in social media.
Company founder Brandon Kruse got the idea for CommentSold when he started helping his wife sell homemade items through her Facebook shop using live videos.
But the buying process itself wasn’t “live,” Chen said. Transactions were done through PayPal invoices (yawn), which created friction and drop-off.
Kruse launched CommentSold in 2017 as a Facebook app that managed order fulfillment for sellers. It also offered a feature to embed purchase details within posts, including in-video interstitials that would encourage users to comment “sold” once they’d bought an item (hence the company’s name).
Still, CommentSold eventually had to set its sights beyond the Meta-owned walled garden.
“Facebook is fantastic” when it comes to social engagement, Chen said, “but there’s [a lot of] uncertainty when you’re at the mercy of Facebook’s algorithms, so we needed to create a mechanism for clients to manage their own communities” on the open web and especially on mobile.
CommentSold has launched two other tools that extend live shopping beyond Facebook.
One integrates live video ad formats into the backend of websites that already have an ecommerce business but are just missing the live video component. The other product is a mobile SDK that smaller sellers can integrate into their mobile app to launch a full-stack ecommerce solution, including live video and order management.
On average, Chen said CommentSold-enabled shops earn up to $300 per minute during live sales events, and some sellers have seen their year-over-year revenue grow by as much as 400%.
Apps vs. the web
Still, an engaged audience doesn’t automatically translate into success with live video shopping.
Part of the holdup is that US shoppers aren’t accustomed to making purchases on social media, Vincent Yang, CEO of live shopping platform Firework, told AdExchanger over the summer. That behavior is why Firework focuses its business on live video integrations on the web, rather than in apps.
But CommentSold has high hopes for mobile.
The biggest revenue growth opportunity for live video shopping is “by far” on a mobile app, Chen said, because social app environments elicit higher engagement than the open web.
Social shopping’s slow trickle in the US is less a matter of cultural discrepancies, Chen said, and more to do with how tech is used for live shopping. Brands and sellers need the right tools, but they also need training.
Facebook’s live shopping failure is evidence that just having the technology to power a livestream isn’t enough. “Platforms also need to invest in training and customer success going live,” Chen said.
CommentSold also sees Facebook’s stumble as an opportunity to grab a little market share.
“Retailers can’t use Facebook’s technology to host live shopping events directly,” Chen said, “but CommentSold’s tech can still be used on both Facebook and Instagram.”
Trying it out
Many of the sellers using CommentSold are new to livestream video, which means educational resources are critical.
Jackie Dierickx, for example, used to be an elementary school teacher before she made livestream selling into a full-time gig through her new shop, Willow & Grace Boutique.
CommentSold’s solution was part of Dierickx’s jump, but “I didn’t have any sales experience,” she said. The platform’s sales training, webinars and live customer service teams are what helped her online shop take off, she said.
Dierickx’s annual revenue from live sales has quadrupled since she launched her boutique in 2020.
CommentSold also has features that help sellers identify which audiences to focus on more closely.
If a user spends a certain amount of money with a seller in a short period of time, for example, or returns to the shop after an extended period away, CommentSold highlights that user as someone especially likely to respond to, say, a live shout-out during a stream.
The more engaging the experience, the higher the customer retention rate, and “customer loyalty is a big part of buying online,” said Katie Wilson, co-founder of the shop Mason Jar Boutique.
Wilson sees a 90% customer return rate to her shop, while Dierickx reports a 73% customer return rate.
“Live commerce has had a huge impact on our business because we’re building [one-to-one] relationships,” Wilson said.
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